India fireman takes over after air controller no-show

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A fireman took over guiding a plane into landing after air traffic controllers failed to turn up for work at an airport in India, it has emerged.

The fireman, named as Mr Basha, helped the Jet Airways flight land at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh on 9 January.

The plane was flying from Hyderabad with 60 passengers on board.

Tirupati has no approach radar and pilots rely on air traffic controllers to provide runway and weather information and give landing clearance.

Tirupati airport handles only seven flights a day but is the landing point for visitors to the Tirumala temple, one of Hinduism's holiest shrines.

Visual approach

After the air traffic controllers failed to show up for their 07:00 start, airport deputy manager Janarthanan instructed Mr Basha, whose English was described as broken, to operate the radio in the control tower.

Pilots rely mainly on a visual approach to land at Tirupati and Mr Basha was reported to have supplied the support information needed for about 40 minutes before an air traffic controller arrived for work.

Airport authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.

Airport Authority of India regional executive director D Devaraj told the Mail Today: "No-one doubts Basha's intention to help during a crisis. He wanted the flight to land safely. But he is untrained and must not attempt to do the ATC's job. Mere good intention is not enough in this case."

Mr Devaraj told the paper the controller on duty "simply forgot to turn up".

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